ColorRight MAX Review
ColorRight Max Review
I think the ColorRight Max is awesome.
You might not want to read the review here in detail, so let me say that though I've bought and used a WhiBal, a GM color checker, a couple of ExpoDiscs, and the original ColorRight, this new Max is the one to have in your bag, IMO.
The system Drew and team have developed gives very good to excellent results with a single click. It really is as easy as:
Is it always exactly right? No--but it's miles and miles ahead of anything else out there, including custom grays and other "neutral" devices.
- getting the skin density right with exposure
- WB clicking on a reference patch on the ColorRight
- copying the results to however many shots you took in the same (or similar) light
Drawbacks? Well, I'm pretty jaded on these things, and shooting a wedding is always, um, busy So it stayed in the bag more than it should have; I already have two cameras around my neck so the ColorRight Max was out of the way.
That's my mistake. I could have, and should have (and finally did, as you'll see), pull out the CR Max and take shots "post" actual shots and then use those as a reference.
So if you don't want to read on, just take this as my unqualified support for the product!
The ColorRight Max is an excellent investment and you don't have to know how it works to make it work well.
Ok, so here's some more in-depth stuff on the ColorRight Max...
From what I've seen, now, ColorRight max is the first and only tool that lets you get close--if not exactly on--excellent skin tones with a single click. I didn't think that was possible, and I'm really impressed.
Why CMYK ratios for skin?
CMY ratios are a perfect way to measure skin tone because they're RGB independent.
There has been a lot written on this, and there's a lot of art, craft and science behind how we perceive realistic colour in paintings and prints, but the short version of this is that colour correcting for skin usually requires certain colours within a culture, and certain colours for different skin types.
Again, CMY(K) values are nice to use to measure because regardless of your RGB colourspace, the CMY values (or LAB values) will be the same.
It also lets you know how well something might print, but that's a longer post.
So sticking with CMY, (remember you could use RGB if you wanted, but every RGB space is different), there are certain desired ratios of Y(ellow) to M(agenta) to C(yan) that you want, for the right luminance value in the skin. So--upper quartertone, un-made-up skin in key light (not shadow):
My First Challenge for the ColorRight Max-
- Caucasian skin tends to look best with a percentage of Yellow about 10 points higher than Magenta, and where Cyan in turn is no more than half of magenta but no less than 1/5 or so magenta either.
- Caucasian infants and small children often have equal amounts of magenta and yellow
- There is a lot of variance, of course.
- African American skin still has more yellow than magenta, but can look too yellow, and needs more magenta and more cyan (not much more) as a result.
- There is a lot of variance, of course
- Indonesian and Asian skin types have more yellow overall, but very similar ratio of magenta and cyan to caucasian skin
- There is lots of variance overall (that's where the art comes in) including cultural variance: often cultures see their own skin tones as paler or darker than another culture does.
Mixed Skin Tones
Knowing that skin tones differ by type, I thought it would be interesting to see what happens with a mixed skin-type couples and a couple of different cameras.
I used Phase One Capture One v4.51 Pro and the default profiles for these tests. C1 is the only RAW converter I know about that will let me verify CMYK values as I work, even when I'm outputting to different RGBs.
(Yay for C1 for doing that!)
So here we go... number one: african-canadian skin and caucasian skin...
Here's a shade set up shot from an engagement and the Nikon D3 with 135 lens. Couple is camera shy, but they're intrigued by the CR Max
Straight out of the camera, the WB is essentially neutral for shade (I'm using a custom WB; AWB is always too cool in the shade, usually):
Not bad, but here are the measurements, taken from forehead regions:
bride: 61Y 60M 41C
groom: 32Y 33M 19C
In both cases, there is too much magenta for the yellow component, and way too much cyan, which tends to make skin print dull and lifeless.
A single click on the ColorRight Max changed that to this:
Now the same spots on the face read:
bride: 72Y 65M 30C
groom: 44Y 35M 9C
which is almost perfect for fine printing. Yes, I could tweak it from there, but it's so much closer with minimum work, right in the RAW converter, that it's not funny! (usually I'd have to go to PS to do this with a time-consuming curve)
(who says the Nikon skin tones aren't great?!)
MAX and the Leica M8
Ok, now a different camera: the Leica M8. Same couple, but this time the light is trickier: it's backlit and it's getting on towards sunset. They're lit by open sky; so essentially they're in the shade but there's enough backlight for a real mess.. (the M8 is made for this stuff though, I gotta say )
Right out of the camera, with Auto WB this time:
Again, the skin reads a predictable too magenta and (because this is shade, after all) too cyan!
One click from the ColorRight Max later:
Much much better, even in adverse light. The CMY ratios on *both* faces are excellent now--even in backlight.
This surprised me a lot.... I thought the differences in the patches would get it right for one kind of skin but not for another.
In both of these examples, I used the "lighter" patch for "darker" skin, which in effect does the least warming up (maintains magenta but gets rid of excess cyan, which is crucial for the African-Canadian skin).
Max and Mixed Skin Tones in Poor Lighting
Ok, so I wanted to see just how powerful the ColorRight max was in a less than optimal situation...
In this case, we have a darker-skinned caucasian groom and an Indian bride.
The light is still good, but there's a lot of yellow reflecting around this couple, so there is a tendency for the caucasian skin to get jaundiced looking.
So let's start with the reference shot... taken with my M8, straight out of the camera, manual WB set by my guess in degrees K...(and I didn't guess too badly, but as usual, there's too much cyan and magenta all round):
and here's the ColorRight Max version:
Given the light there was pretty intense (setting sun and lots of reflections), the result measures much, much better. This time, the middle "light" patch worked to give me the best results in both subjects.
Transfer Reference Info Between Cameras
As a side note--I wanted to see what would happen if I transferred the reference information from the M8 shot to my Nikon D3
Given that they're both well-profiled by C1, the results should be very similar! But I've been disappointed before
But not this time; the results pasted from the M8 reference shot worked, with only a minor tweak to yellow (warmth in WB terms).
That alone will save me a ton of time in post. Here's the shot, a Nikon file with settings copied from the M8
Again, the CMY ratios are spot on, and the CR Max saved me a trip to PS and a ton of time (because I get consistent output at the RAW stage).
ColorRight MAX at a Wedding
Ok, so on to a wedding!
Now we all know that flash amounts change a lot. During the day, backlight, shade, tungsten and mixed light, it's all par for the course, but the thing that kills me in terms of post time is getting good skin tones at the reception
Now I'm not talking about where the DJ has green lights on everyone, or anything like that. Just your general mess with tungsten, fluourescent and strobes
So the last wedding I had I brought the ColorRight Max. And it stayed in my bag.
My bad. If I had seen the results from the previous tests, I would have been more diligent in getting the Max out more often.
But it was one of those weddings where I was worried about time, etc.. and it didn't happen.
I did remember it at the end of the night, though So I went around getting people to hold it and holding it myself.
Then I went "back in time" and applied the results.
And I was very surprised once again. Were the results absolutely perfect with a single click? Not quite, but so darned close we could call it that!
Here's the set up.... I was shooting with 3 strobes set to manual and powered by Pocket Wizards, plus an SB 900 on the D3; a Metz on the M8.
All the flashes were gelled 1/2 CTS, which should put the WB around 4K... so that's what I set the cameras for. Too warm, as it turns out... but the post-shots with the CR Max really saved my butt in post
Here's a typical example. CR Max reference shot with willing volunteer as I was packing up my gear. Oy, did I get the WB wrong
"one click" fix with the ColorRight Max:
MAX at a Reception
... Having gotten a good read on colour temperature and skin tones from the "geez I want to get out of here" shots (just kidding, but you know how that goes)...
I could then go back and use the settings pretty much unaltered for the rest of the reception.
And here's where I didn't think this would work, given that light bouncing around in different places should create different temps. for skin. But at this last wedding, anyway, the output was consistent enough to work for all positions relative to the lights.
So with the shots I got at the end, I could process these--they're all the same WB (though exposure, of course, varies somewhat)... again with the Nikon D3, manual exposure, remote slaves and ambient about a stop under...
In the corner of the room, close to the strobes:
On the other side of the dancefloor, much farther away:
Well, at least for now... to say I'm impressed with the ColorRight Max is an understatement. It's a really great peice of gear, and it's really well made. I don't treat equipment with kid gloves, and I've dropped the thing more times than I can count. No problems.
I wish there was a way to carry it though, without a lanyard. I know that sounds bizarre, but as I said, I already have cameras around my neck and risk strangling myself as it is! LOL!!
On the other hand, now that I've seen the performance of this in fairly difficult and typical conditions, I'm going to be using it--a LOT.
Even if I only take 2 minutes at the reception to take those shots at the end, it saves me time. The CMY ratios are really on the money.
Now, I have to say two things about this as a long-time Canon user / new Nikon convert...
The Nikon files tend to have too much cyan; the Canon often has too little. Neither is preferable, and the Max did a good job controlling Cyan with a single click. That's some trick..
If I was still a Canon user, then I'd probably need to use different patches than I did for the M8 and the Nikon, though again, the surprise of successfully copying info from the M8 to use on the Nikon is quite astounding!
But if you're shooting a 5d or 1d3 and consistently get too little cyan, just back off on the warmth and magenta a wee bit; you should get there quickly...
And a lot more quickly with a ColorRight Max than without it! Consistency is key for workflow, and this has it in spades--all out of the RAW converter. Sp all in all, the ColorRight will save me time and money, and I love stuff like that
by Jamie Roberts